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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                        265

The trainee stood on feet made of leather and
aluminium and looked merrily at the instructor, the
mechanic and the line of airmen waiting for their turn
to go up.

in a flash Naumov understood the cause of this man's
agitation, of the unusual expression in his face, of the
tears in his black eyes, and of the eagerness with which
he wanted to prolong the thrill of flying. This trainee
amazed him. He rushed towards him and, violently shak-
ing hands with him, exclaimed:

"Boy, how could you? You don't know, you simply
don't know what sort of a man you are!"

The chief thing was done now. Alexei had won the
instructor's heart. They met in the evening and drew up
a training programme. They agreed that Alexei's position
was a difficult one. If he committed the slightest blunder,
he stood in danger of being barred from flying for ever,
and although now more than ever he was burning to get
into a fighter plane and fly to the place whither the finest
warriors in the country were now streaming—the famous
city on the Volga—he consented patiently to undergo all-
round training. He realised that in his position only an
"A-l" certificate would suffice.

Meresyev stayed at the training school for over five
months. The airfield was covered with snow, the aircraft
were put on runners. When up in the "sector" Alexei
now saw beneath him not the bright colours of autumn
overspreading the land, but only two colours: white and
black. The sensational news of the rout of the Germans at
Stalingrad, the doom of the German Sixth Army and the
capture of Paulus, were now things of the past An un-
precedented and irresistible offensive was developing in
the South. General Rotmistrov's tanks had pierced tfee
German front and were playing havoc in the eamiy's
rear. At a time like this, when swA things were goimg oo
at the front, and when terrific battles were raging in the
sky over the front, Alexei found it harder to "creak**
painstakingly in tiny training planes than it tad boon for
him to pace day after day an innumerable number of